Going The Other Way

U-God posted a link in the RR about Boston Herald columnist Steve Buckley, and his recent article about coming out publicly as a gay man in the sports world. This also reminded me of a Real Sports episode I saw about Rugby player Gareth Thomas (pictured below- soon to be played by a dentally impared Mickey Rourke), the only openly gay athlete who is currently playing a major team sport. Because I perceive value in the following analysis and the ensuing discussion. 


(Go Ahead- say it to my face... I double dog dare you)



Titles I also considered:

Pitchers and Catchers Sound Off?

Queer Eye for the Baseball Guy?

A Faaabulous Look at Statistics? 

What else might Oney let slip?

So if you are mildly curious about an amateur statistical analysis of MLB player demographics from an actual scholar, and the realistic conclusions we can draw, read on after the glamorous jump...

I am stealing the actual title for this fanpost from the biography of fomer MLB outfielder Billy Bean.   (Not Billy Beane, GM of Oakland),  but the only living MLB player to be openly gay, having come out in 1999, after retiring in 1995.  Wikipedia sums up his career as:

Bean was an outfielder, and left-handed hitter, with 487 at bats with a .226 batting average in a career that lasted from 1987 through 1995: Detroit Tigers 1987-1989, Los Angeles Dodgers 1989, San Diego Padres 1993-1995. He played for the Kintetsu Buffaloes in Japan in 1992. Bean tied a major league record with four hits in his first major league game.

Obviously, a near Mendoza-line level of competence at the plate.  His sole predecessor was Glenn Burke- who was the only known player out to teammates, managers and ownership.  Wikipedia has this to say:

When he started his baseball career, many of the scouts described him as the next Willie Mays. Burke was a highly touted baseball star in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system hitting well over .300 before being called up to the major league club.

Burke's association with the Dodgers was a difficult one. According to his 1995 autobiography Out at Home, Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager Al Campanis offered to pay for a lavish honeymoon if Burke agreed to get married. Burke refused to participate in the sham. He also angered Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda by befriending the manager's estranged gay son, Tommy Lasorda, Jr. The Dodgers eventually dealt Burke to the Oakland Athletics. There, Billy Martin called him faggot in front of his teammates. After he suffered a knee injury  before the season began, the A's sent him to the minors in Utah. The A's released him from his contract in 1979.

Burke said "By 1978 I think everybody knew," and was "sure his teammates didn't care." Former Dodgers team captain Davey Lopes said "No one cared about his lifestyle."  He told the New York Times that "Prejudice drove me out of baseball sooner than I should have. But I wasn't changing.", and stated in his autobiography that "prejudice just won out." Burke left professional sports for good at age 27.

Author's note: I am sure it had nothing to do with his performance... as follows:

In his four seasons, 225 games in the majors playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A's, Burke had 523 at-bats, batted .237 with two home runs, 38 RBI and 35 stolen bases. In 1977, Burke ran onto the field to congratulate his Los Angeles Dodgers teammate Dusty Baker for hitting a home run in the last game of the regular season. Another High-Five came moments later when Baker returned the favor in celebration of Burke's first major league home run. His celebration has since been imitated by athletes and fans in virtually every sport around the world. Although he is said to be 'the player who invented the High-Five the High-Five was widely used for at least a half-century prior to Burke's adaptation of the gesture during baseball games.

"My mission as a gay ballplayer was to break a stereotype . . . I think it worked." Glenn Burke in People ~ November 1994

 So: In the entire history of MLB, there have been 2 (two, count them on one hand with 3 fingers removed) gay ballplayers.  With 1200 members of the MLPBA, that figure seems awful small.  Which got me thinking: how many might there be?   I will leave the discussions for why there are so few and the when that might change to others, I am just going to share my analysis and let the discussion begin.

First, you have to set a baseline- what percentage of the human race is gay?   Well, Kinsey reported in 1948 that 10% was accurate, but one biopic later along with an actual review of his data reveal that he was full of shit, with 55% of the men surveyed  by Kinsey were either prisoners, sex offenders, or male prostitutes.  (Note to self- turn down the next invite to the Kinsey house for drinks).   An analysis of U.S. census data has provided the most solid evidence of the presence and certain social characteristics of lesbians and gays among the general population. In the 1990 census, gay and lesbian respondents could identify themselves as unmarried partners. Estimates from the 1990 census indicate that 1.63 percent of people aged 15 and older nationwide reported themselves as unmarried partners of the householder. Other studies shown ranges of 0.6 to 5.4 percent.  For the purposes of this discussion, I am going to go with a conservative 3%.

Second, how many MLB players are there?  Well, there are 1200 members of the Major League Professional Ballplayers Association.   But, there are only 30 teams with an active 25 man roster.  But with the 40 man eligible call up roster, 30 x 40 means 1200- hey! they match!! Go figure!

Third, are there any factors that might prevent a gay youth from entering a career of athletics?  Well, there might be some societal pressure growing up for an obviously gay youth (and we all knew em... lets be honest, now.  The one or two kids who just swished.) but the fact is, gay people learn to hide their preferences early as well, so I woud say, no.  Gays can love playing sports as much as straights, and can hate them as much as straights as well.  Heck, lots of them go into professional wrestling.  .  But, just to shut up those who might disagree, I am going to take my conservative estimate of 3% down to 2%.  Happy now?

So, 1200 x 2% = 24.    With some accounting for sample size and other sabremetrical wizardry, 20 to 30 gay players.

Now, everyone knows that the larger metropolitan communities attract gays and lesbians for the acceptance and safety of a larger gay community, so I have obviously proven conclusively that every gay ballplayer is a member of the New York Yankees.... One can assume an even distribution of those players.  A couple-two-tree might even play in Chikawga, which is why Oney's recent twatting is particularly disturbing.   I have no desire to out any player, see any player outed, nor do I want this to digress into a "BA is obviously gay with those tattoos" discussion, but I am sure that more than one clubhouse  that is communally aware  a player is gay and keeps that fact to itself.  Baseball is far more open to fan interaction than other sports, and no teammate wants their fellow teammate mocked or to have to answer awkward questions about that teammate. 


More specifically, there have been 1593 men who have worn the beloved uniform of the Sox.  So, there have been probably been 30 gay sox players to wear that uniform, Faaaabulously..

So- there you have it.    Conversation starters: 

If you were a gay ball player, should you come out?

What exactly does it matter?

Is progress warranted in this post DADT world?

What kind of stones would a modern player need to come out?

What exactly was said during the conversation between DrEl and Mrs. DrEl to explain his internet research for this article?

How cool would Flubber Condoms be?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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